Erie & REA Problems: Questions


For the following questions, assume that the State of Springfield is the 51st State of the United States.  Springfield is like many states, with a bicameral legislature that enacts statutes, and a tripartite judicial system, with a trial court (Springfield Court of Common Pleas), intermediate appellate court (Springfield Court of Appeals), and supreme court (Springfield Supreme Court).  Springfield has two federal judicial districts, the Western District and the Eastern District.  Springfield’s federal district courts fall within a new federal court of appeals, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 13th Circuit.  Assume that all matters take place in federal court and that diversity of citizenship and the amount in controversy are satisfied.


  1. Sideshow Bob gets angry at Krusty the Clown and starts a website at KRUSTYTHECLOWNREALLYREALLYSUCKS.COM. Springfield Gen. Stat. § 10-717 provides a statutory cause of action for cybersquatting (registering, trafficking, or using a domain name with the bad faith intent to profit where the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to the plaintiff’s trademark). The state statute provides for either actual damages, or at the plaintiff’s election, statutory damages of up to $1,000,000. Federal law provides a concurrent form of relief, a federal cybersquatting cause of action that allows parallel relief to any state recovery, but the damages under the federal cybersquatting statute are capped at $100,000 per domain name. (See 15 U.S.C. §§ 1117(d), 1125(d).) If Krusty sues Sideshow under the Springfield statute, may he demand $1,000,000 statutory damages?

  2. In 1928, the Springfield Supreme Court held that a plaintiff who is found to be contributorily negligent cannot recover any damages in a suit for negligence. Since then, many states (via common law or legislative enactment) have abandoned the harsh rule of contributory negligence for various formulations of comparative negligence, which generally serve to reduce a plaintiff’s recovery without completely barring it. In 2015, Seymour sues Bart for running him over with a skateboard. Bart moves for dismissal, arguing that Seymour is barred by contributory negligence because he was not watching where he was walking, instead eyeing Edna. What is the relevant state law?

  3. Same facts as problem 2. The U.S. District Court of the Western District of Springfield holds that the Springfield Supreme Court would stick to the contributory negligence rule and dismisses the case. On appeal, the judges of the Court of Appeals for the 13th Circuit feel that they should follow the reasoning of the district judge, the Hon. Selma Bouvier, because she served in Springfield state courts for 15 years before joining the federal bench. May the Court of Appeals defer to Judge Bouvier?

  4. Same facts as problem 2, but two opinions of the Springfield Court of Appeals criticize contributory negligence. What is the relevant state law?

  5. Same facts as problem 2, but in 1989, the Springfield Supreme Court reaffirmed the contributory negligence rule. What is the relevant state law?

  6. Mr. Burns sues Homer for gross negligence arising from Homer’s falling asleep on his job at the Springfield nuclear power plant. He files suit in the Western District of Springfield. Homer seeks a venue transfer to the Eastern District of Springfield for the convenience of the witnesses and parties. Mr. Burns objects to transfer of venue, arguing that under Springfield state court rules, venue transfer is permitted only in “extraordinary circumstances.” Homer concedes that extraordinary circumstances do not exist.  May the district court transfer the suit?

  7. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 3 states “A civil action is commenced by filing a complaint with the court.” Springfield court rules indicate that a statute of limitation is tolled only by actual service. One day before the statute of limitations expires, Milhouse sues Lisa for breach of a promise to marry him. Service of the summons and complaint is not done until two weeks later.  Lisa moves to dismiss, citing the statute of limitations. How should the court decide?

  8. Same facts as problem 7, but assume that FRCP 3 is amended to state “A civil action is commenced by filing a complaint with the court; moreover, such filing shall toll any applicable statute of limitations.” How should the court decide?

  9. Barney drank too much Duff’s Beer at Moe’s Tavern. Moe said goodnight to Barney; because Moe didn’t think Barney was drunk, Moe let him leave. On the way home, Barney passed out, falling on Lenny and Carl, nearly crushing them. Lenny and Carl sue Barney and Moe. Springfield common law – as enunciated repeatedly by the Springfield Supreme Court – states that a bar owner or bartender is strictly liable to any person for harm caused to a plaintiff by a bar patron who harms the plaintiff, when the harmful acts were proximately caused by the consumption of alcohol at the bar. In December 2015, new Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 100, takes effect. FRCP 100 states that bar owners shall have no liability for damages caused to any person by a drunken patron unless the bartender knew or had reason to know that the patron was intoxicated when leaving the bar. (Apparently Barney and Moe had powerful friends amongst the rulemakers.) Barney and Moe move to dismiss on the basis of FRCP 100. How should the court rule on Moe’s motion? How should the court rule on Barney’s motion?

Posted Feb. 26, 2016